Bullets fade, Brown stars in Celtic victory

March 25, 1994|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- For 53 minutes at USAir Arena last night, the lottery-bound Washington Bullets and Boston Celtics -- both saddled with six game losing streaks -- performed with the fervor of teams vying for a NBA championship.

The last-place Bullets forced an overtime on a three-point shot by forward Tom Gugliotta with five seconds left in regulation.

But in the end, Washington again fell victim to its porous defense, with Dee Brown as the chief benefactor, scoring a career-high 38 points to lead the Celtics to a 123-117 victory before a crowd of 15,150.

"Defense has been our problem all year," Bullets coach Wes Unseld said. "We just don't have anyone who can block a shot. We double-team a lot, and that opens up a lot of high-percentage shots."

This problem has been magnified by the absences and ineffectual play of Pervis Ellison, the forward/center who returned to the injured list last night with an ailing right knee.

The Celtics were not the first team to expose the Bullets' vulnerability in the middle.

Brown, whose career has been marked by inconsistent play mixed with flashes of brilliance, was at the top of his game last night. The slender 6-foot-1 guard played all but one minute while hitting 15 of 26 shots, including 3-for-3 from three-point range.

Twenty of his points were crammed into the fourth quarter and overtime with the Celtics overcoming a 13-point (82-69) deficit late in the third quarter.

And when the Bullets tried keying on Brown, they were burned by rookie Dino Radja (20 points) in the low post and Kevin Gamble (15).

"Brown got most of his points off picks outside," said Unseld. "But Gamble was just driving down the middle, and no one was stopping him."

The Celtics, who had dropped 19 of their previous 21 games, have committed to a youth movement, giving ample playing time to Radja, the sturdy Romanian who leads the team in scoring, and rookie Acie Earl while Robert Parish, at 40, has seen his minutes diminish.

Minus Ellison, Unseld juggled rookie guard Calbert Cheaney (foot) and point guard Michael Adams (shoulder).

Center Marty Conlon, obtained by the Bullets off the waiver wire earlier yesterday, was pressed into immediate service and made all three of his shots in a four-minute stint.

For all their problems, the Bullets, led by Gugliotta (24 points) a resurgent Rex Chapman (22 points), Brent Price (18 points, 8 assists) and a career-high 13 rebounds from crowd favorite Gheorghe Muresan, were in control for three quarters.

But then came the familiar fourth-quarter swoon. The Celtics used a 26-10 spree to forge ahead, 99-94. They seemed to have it wrapped up, leading 105-100 with 1:51 remaining and again at 107-104 with just 12 seconds left before Gugliotta sent it to overtime.

Gugliotta then missed a tying three-point attempt, but Kenny Walker hustled for the rebound and knocked it back to Gugliotta, who made good on his second try from the left corner, forcing the overtime.

But Boston quickly seized control in the extra period, adding to the Bullets' frustration.

"Don't blame it on manpower," said Chapman. "We've lost these kind of games too many times.

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